It was a very hot July day as Joanna Scott alighted from the Tiernseebahn at Seespitz. Her Tanswick days were long behind her now, though the school was still going well alongside the branches of the original Chalet School, both now had all modern things like an indoor swimming pool. She had a map, so paddled a bit in the cold spring-fed lake, having originally been used to the coldish sea in Wales. Then set off along the shore towards Briesau, taking some photographs on the way, she was a photographer. The pines smelt quite scented and the Tiernsee looked as blue as it ever did in summer.
The village now looked rather different to prewar days, with several shops and hotels. Joanna went to the tourist information to ask where the memorial plaque to Madge and the Chalet School was.
She admired the black and white church and went inside before going to
have a look at the school. All the buildings behind the now wire fence appeared to still be there, though nothing remained of the nearby bathing hut. There was a faded notice on a gatepost saying
"Wasserverwaltung Tiernsee". The grey plaque, in German, was set into a cairn just outside the gate.
No-one was about so she crossed the wooden bridge over the anti-flooding ditch and went to wander round the site.
The main chalet still just about looked in use. Though all buildings were more or less literally falling apart with bits of the balconies etc missing and lying on the ground.
The rose garden she had heard about had totally disappeared and was just a parched lawn. She cautiously opened the door of the games shed, where Biddy had once hid, and entered. There was nothing in there now, but the pungent smell suggested that some animal had been using it. Then Joanna came to the remains of the infants' sandpit and small paddling-pool behind Le Petit Chalet. Nothing was left either of the small garden that had surrounded this building. Curious, she tried the main door and it opened. Inside everything was quite dark and in a state of extreme disrepair. The wooden staircase was missing treads. Joanna went carefully up it, into a corridor. Before turning right into what had once been the housemistress' room. Most of it was empty, but a cupboard contained a stack of papers.
Some were 1930s form lists, registers, exercise books and so on, there was also an accident book. She picked it up. One entry, in English, was signed H.Wilson and described Cornelia Flower falling into a hidden cave during a mountain ramble and being rescued by a strong peasant. Joanna was planning a walk to Mechttau village, and hoped she did'nt stumble across a cave. That term had been quite a while before the Anschluss, she also found a register for the very last one, with Alixe's name near the top. After stuffing as much as she could into her bag, she explored the chalet further. The common room had a gaping hole in the floor and one dormitory still had a few rotten yellow cubicle curtains and bedclothes as well as a rabbit or guinea pig cage. Feeling a bit depressed by this, she left the building.
The sun was like a blowtorch, she was wearing a school-style
boater. At that point, the temperature suddenly dropped and Joanna felt a powerful sense of dislocation. Now the scene had somewhat changed. The buildings looked in better repair, Le Petit Chalet was an open cafe. The rest of the site seemed to be laid out as a public park and football pitch, some people were lying around in late 20th century skirts, shorts, and t-shirts. It was hot again now . There was a bigger sandpit and pool in front of her, with a few small children splashing about. Behind it was a small fenced-off
area. Feeling scared about getting back, Joanna opened the gate, to a very small graveyard with just five stones . The first headstone with a rough granite surface, said in English:
In Memory of
Gillian Emily Linton
31st July 1924 - 15th June 1941
A Victim of Enemy Violence
A Life Cut Short
Joanna wondered who she was.
The next ones were more ornate, with a smooth surface:
Josephine Mary Maynard
November 21st 1918 - 1 December 1967
Rest in Peace
Bride Claire Bettany
14th April 1935 - 1 December 1967
Rest in Peace
Jack Henry Maynard
14 June 1901 - 1 December 1967.
Rest in Peace
David Patrick Maynard
14 June 1901 - 1 December 1967
Rest in Peace
Joanna was shocked, why here and all the same date?
She had lost touch with Bride, soon after leaving school,
had met Joey when she visited Tanswick for a music event and hadn't especially liked her. Nonetheless, Tessa had heard from somewhere that she was still alive. What then, had happened to Jo in this world?
She stepped out and closed the gate. At that point she was surprised to see two tall girls in brown and white checked school dresses walking across the grass with a large parasol, deckchairs and a basket. They sat down and began drinking iced coffee.
No-one else appeared to notice them, but they smiled at her so Joanna went over and sat on the ground. She was given a
glass of coffee and a piece of walnut cake.
"Hello, I'm Gillian Linton, former Head Girl of the Chalet School and this is Louise Redfield, former Second Prefect"
"Well hello, but what on earth is going on? I'm Joanna Scott, once Head Girl of the Tanswick Chalet School, just found myself in your world by chance through some weird quirk"
"We've seen that happen with someone once before, what school?" they said.
"Oh, it still exists on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales, a long story"
Joanna tried to explain.
"Oh right, Plas Howell became our centre with a nearby prep branch, Madge bought the place soon after the drains were fixed. I survived long enough to see it alive, unlike Gillian
sadly" said Louise.
"What happened to you then?"
"She was killed in a battle with the local Austrian Fascists and some Nazis while we were out for a walk in 1941, just before the school fled. I became a vet in Britain, but died in August 1980, while on holiday when anarchists bombed a train in Greece. Hateful arseholes" said Louise.
"I've never forgiven the Fascists or the Greek bombers either. Italy entered the war in 1942, at least their alliance with fascist Germany and Austria was finally defeated in 1948" said Gillian.
"That's dreadful, about the worst we ever normally had was horrible middles. The defeat happened in 1945 in my world, differently" said Joanna.
"Oh we had middles problems of course, they could be very inventive with pranks" said Louise.
They both explained a bit more background about their Second World War and so on to each other, including the appearance of Charlotte Makepeace in similar circumstances.
"I think she's a member of my rambling group in Arundel, in Sussex" said Joanna in surprise.
"Oh right, then she should be able to tell you everything about the escape and the preceding events"
"I will ask. What was the school originally like back then anyway?"
"It could be very nice, we did all kinds of things like guiding, guide camping and so on. But it was very strict with limited freedom, religious and so on, cold or lukewarm morning baths even in winter. Presumably quite unlike what a modern boarding school would be. After the war, the chalet site was empty for some years, before Irma von Rothenfels bought and gradually restored it with her family. After her death in 1987, it was donated to the nation. At least they've really laid out this site nicely, new roses!" said Gillian.
"In my world it's a total mess, supposedly used by the water board. But most of the buildings are derelict", Joanna explained about that.
"That's sad" said the pupils.
"Now I'd better tell you what happened to Joey, Jack and her children" said Louise.
"After extensive repairs and refurbishment, the Sonnalpe san had been reopened in 1960 more as a local general hospital. TB had effectively been beaten in the west. It was nationalised by the Austrian government along with some other nearby properties, so Die Rosen was unavailable. The once home of Miss Browne's school still existed in full so they had bought that and restored it as much as they could afford. Above all, they could'nt extend central heating throughout so had to retain a fire even in the nursery, which was in the wing that the head had built on to the original chalet. A fireguard was very carefully kept along with instructions to their kids. Who were'nt really used to that anymore, Plas Gwyn had also become fully centrally heated when it had to be partially rebuilt because of the foundations.
Dr Jem's sanatorium basically remained high in the Black Mountains in Wales, though it did establish a branch on the Gornetz Platz. Madge had refused to reopen the school there, despite a large former hotel being on the market and this caused some tension between them. It was too isolated and far from the lake. Eventually they compromised, a finishing school was opened near the water, east of Interlaken. With the understanding that that would be all. Though it had been a success, Mary-Lou was one of it's graduates. Josette had got into an agressive rage when her mother had refused to let her go there, and been confined to bed with no books or anything for a few days. Then her partner had insisted that not allowing it would do more harm than good. Eventually she had gained a doctorate in homeopathy from Cambridge, not Oxford and was staying at the Round House that fateful Christmas.
Bride had wanted to visit Austria again, but most of Jo's brood were either too small, as with Len, Con, and Margot or occupied with cross-country skiing. So it was only Jo, Bride and David who were driven into Innsbruck by Dr Jack for some Christmas shopping, on rather icy, dangerous roads, something he was experienced in. Unfortunately he had also taken to drink. While Dr Jem still owned the san business, he was now mainly an eminent NHS consultant, and in the postwar world was seriously considering allowing the whole thing to be nationalised including the Swiss branch.. Dr Jack ran it, but his mistrust of many new medical advances in favour of tried and tested ways was causing friction with Jem. Jack and Jo's large family was a massive financial drain, and Jo's power as a writer was starting to fade with her novels being seen as old fashioned. So he'd drank a bit too much wine at the Christmas market. Their car fatally skidded into a tree on the way back. Jem and Madge looked after the other Maynard children where neccessary. Peggy Bettany had decided to stay at home that day and still lives in Exeter"
"Oh that's awful. In my world, Joey is still alive as far as I know" said Joanna.
"How strange" they replied.
By now Joanna's earlier sunburn was getting rather painful despite the suncream and parasol.
"Where are you staying?" said Gillian.
"I was in Innsbruck, but wanted to spend a few days up here. Went to Kufstein yesterday"
"We used to have trips there. You should climb the Mondscheinspitze and to the Sonnalpe, Robin's cave is worth seeing too"
They discussed the local attractions and other things a bit more.
The sun was getting worryingly slightly lower in the sky.
"It's been lovely meeting you, thanks for explaining things. But I've hopefully got to get back to my 1990" said Jo.
"Well yes, good luck. Perhaps just run as fast as possible through Briesau, attempt to get through the space-time barrier" said Gillian.
They gave each other a virtual cheek kiss, seeing as two of them were ghosts, and said goodbye. Then the pupils packed up,
walked away and vanished. Joanna was left alone, feeling very anxious.
The park was almost empty now and the cafe was closing. A young Tyrolean-looking but slender women was wiping the tables. Joanna was quite relieved to bump into her and feel flesh.
"Are you ok?" she said in German.
"Well, I just saw some ghosts and talked to them. It was weird, though they were really nice. Moreover, I just landed in your 1990 by chance. I'm worried about getting back to mine" replied Joanna in the same language.
"Oh yes we do see ghostly Chalet School pupils or staff from time to time. You're not the first to talk to them. I'm Bettina Mensch, related to Gottfried, the doctor who had to escape the fascists at that time. He's still alive, Frieda and him live in Salzburg, Bernhilda in Vienna"
"Oh right, in my world he eventually moved from Britain to Dr Jem's new san in Switzerland, near the school"
"What? Please sit down for a while and explain some of this while you're here"
"Well ok" said Joanna uneasily.
They had a schnapps, and explained in German and English about the san, Tanswick, and so on to each other.
"Thanks, very pleased to meet you, but I must go" said Joanna.
"Yes thanks, shame you can't stay"
They kissed cheeks and said goodbye.
Joanna went out of the gates, but the world looked just the same. There was here also a similar cairn-set plaque commemorating the school but metal railings instead of a fence. A large noticeboard advertised the facilities in the park, including a youth hostel in the main chalet and the children's playground.
She rather panicked and tried to run as fast as possible. Thankfully she was still reasonably fit because of the rambling, and wearing comfortable sockless trainers with a rucksack over her summer dress.
After streaking through the village, the landscape noticeably changed back to what it should be. Then it was safe to reenter the correct Briesau and she found somewhere to stay before swimming in the moonlit lake.
By coincidence, Mary-Lou was staying in the same place, so they chatted over dinner before going to bed.